Great Lakes THAT Camp bootcamps took place this Friday at the Michigan State University campus. During the day, I attended two bootcamps: Hacking WordPress and Copyright/Open Access Bootcamp. In this post, I’m going to discuss some of the skills and overall knowledge that I gleaned from my first ever day of THATCamp bootcamps.
Hacking WordPress Bootcamp
Major Lesson: CSS, XAMPP, PhP and all those other acronyms aren’t as scary as they seem.
The requirement for this bootcamp was that we came in with XAMPP, a program that allows your personal computer to act as a server, and WordPress.org, a platform for blogging. Honestly, as I was downloading these onto my computer last night I had already decided that I would consider myself a success if I was able to just get the XAMPP to work at all. While it did take me about three tries to get XAMPP to happily speak with my computers (it seems that Windows doesn’t like XAMPP at all, and its important that your computer doesn’t have the User Account Control turned on) I was able to get my computer to act as a server and get WordPress.org working happily.
But it didn’t stop there! Then our group was able to successfully learn how to create our own template through editing CSS and PhP in Notepad ++. All of these acronyms and programs were completely new to me, and after three hours of plugging away it it with a group I now feel fairly comfortable with the technology. I’m amazing by how easy it actually was. There is a tendency to set up tech based knowledge as elite knowledge, but it isn’t anymore. This bootcamp (as well as this entire year in the CHI program) has been a great reminder that technology is very accessible, you just need to dive right in.
Here are some of the other minor lessons I took away from the wordpress bootcamp: if you aren’t sure how to write something like a template or CSS you can use others CSS as an example, when you don’t know something you should ask- you won’t be judged, and geeking out is fun (especially when twenty people are geeking out together).
Creative Commons Logo
Major Lesson: Through creativity, copyrights can be your friend.
This bootcamp had a number of mini talks within it and was more education based than skill based. A quick down and dirty summary of Copyright laws was the first presentation. So what copyright laws should you check out? 102: what subject matter is eligible, 106: what your rights are in controlling your work, 107: fair use limitations, and 108: the library and archive exemptions. Following this was a discussion of how archiving has changed in the digital world. A lot of projects we are doing in CHI are based around archives, and its important to understand the issues with this. For more on this issue see Micalee’s discussion of archives and copyright.Within these first few mini talks, the major takeaway was that we need to get to know the law, clearly display our own copyrights, and learn to use the copyright laws to your advantage. At the moment digital works and copyrights have moved far beyond the law, so there is flexibility if you understand your rights and restrictions.
One of the most important aspects was learning about Creative Commons. I only recently implemented a copyright on my personal blog using Creative Commons, although I can honestly say I didn’t quite understand it. Here are the basics: Attribution (little man) symbol means you can use the work but must cite the creator, restriction money symbol means you can’t use the work for commercial reasons, and equal sign means there can be no derivatives of the work. After discussing the spectrum and the reasons behind each of these symbols, I actually updated my own site to have a different set of Creative Commons copyrights.
Some of the minor lessons from this bootcamp: you should surround your archive/website/database with good facts and good people (i.e. scholars, archivists, and researchers), you can search in google based on licensing, and we need a set of standards or best practices for copyrights but until then look to see what other institutions and people are doing successfully.
Thanks to Jeff Siarto for leading the Hacking WordPress bootcamp, and Greg Grossmeier, Bobby Glushko and Lance Stuchell for the Copyright/OA bootcamp.
Feel free to add what you learned from today’s GLTHATCamp Bootcamps!
This past week was the annual Paleopathology Association conference, which took place in Minneapolis, MN on April 12-13th. During the final session of talks, Charlotte Roberts, a paleopathology professor from Durham University (and one of my academic heroes), discussed the need for an international database for bioarchaeological collections.
Roberts reviewed 20 years of journal articles from the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology and found that two thirds of the material used was taken from only four collections: York, Bradford, Birmingham and the Museum of London. While restudies are a good way to test methods, the materials have been so overused that they are becoming damaged and other collections are being overlooked. Roberts argues that we need to consider the implications of all these restudies. In order to create more representative and nuanced interpretations of the past it is important to study a wide range of collections. If our analyses are limited to four collections, we will be unable to understand the range of variation in the past.
The reason for the use of these four specific collections is their accessibility and availability. The problem is that our work becomes biased towards specific samples. There is also a cyclical effect in that those samples most published are the most likely candidates for future re-analysis. Some collections have become so damaged from reanalysis that they can no longer be used. By focusing on particular collections we are creating partial views of past demography and paleopathology. If we create online databases of all available skeletal collections we will be able to more accurately represent human health in the past by showing the range of variation.
The Museum of London’s Centre for Bioarchaeology stands as the exemplar of the digitizing skeleton collections. The database includes information on sex, age, height and pathological conditions. Photos of the pathological conditions are also available. All the information can be downloaded easily and is free to use. By putting the information online, the collection gets a high use but also preserves the material. While this database is impressive, Roberts does not believe that all collections need to do this.
The solution, Roberts argues, is to create a international database for bioarchaeological collections that are available for study. This does not need to consist of anything large or all encompassing, but rather just include information on the type of collection available, the location, and basic information that researchers would need in order to find the collection and determine whether it was appropriate for their study. The database would be freely accessible and would allow for students and researchers to find out where underused collections currently are instead of relying on the four main ones.
There are a number of challenges in trying to create a national database of bioarchaeological collections. First, there is concern from certain researchers about the misuse of their data and collections. The argument is that by opening up your data to others it opens up the researcher to critique. Data could potentially be interpreted in a way not fitting with the original research. However, by opening our data we are furthering the knowledge of the discipline and by allowing others to test data it allows for constructive critique and growth of the data.
Second, with the change in laws such as NAGPRA or reburial changes in the UK there is concern that making collections known could cause them to be reburied before they have been properly researched. Along these same lines is the idea that skeletal material may be too sensitive a subject matter for online, and by putting data on line it may be offensive to some individuals. However, by putting the data freely online we can better inform reburial debates and perhaps by showing the worth of research collections we can save collections from reburial.
Third, digitizing collections and the creation of databases can be expensive. While it is getting easier to find funding for projects that have just started such as those under National Science Foundation funding that require databases and digital preservation. By increasing the number of collections online and showing their value, funding will become more available for digitization.
We are in a new age of digital databases and open access. Bioarchaeology would benefit from the digitization of collections. With collections online we can spread the use load, fill the knowledge gaps by researching new populations, and better use the skeletal resources that we have.
Sixteen Tons is finally starting to see some life. Unfortunately, most of this is in the form of massive chaos as I continue upload item after item into my digital repository. I’ve decided that, before I can even begin to think about the organization of the website, I need to place my items into my Omeka site and then begin the process of sorting and organizing. Ideally, I’d like to complete this first step by May so that I can then work on the organization of my website during the summer.
When I add a new item to my Omeka site, the first thing I do is begin to fill out the metadata boxes. Omeka uses Dublin Core (DC) standard – it’s complete enough to accurately describe various materials but simple enough for people to use who do not possess an LIS degree. Some of the boxes I filled in were obvious and included title, subject, and description:
Other boxes such as, creator, publisher, contributor, ect. were a bit more confusing and certainly open to interpretation. Consistency and professionalism were important parts of this project, so I sought out some metadata advice and ended up with some useful suggestions.
Catherine Foley is a digital librarian at Matrix and was kind enough to sit down to help with my metadata dilemma. DC has an element set that provides definitions and descriptions for each term name (publisher, contributor, creator, etc.). The element set provides DC users with a basic standardization that still provides some flexibility for interpretation. Because consistency is key for my project, I’m taking a tip from Catherine and creating a table that lists each term name that I am choosing to use in my project and provides my own additional comments aside from DC’s general definition. “Publisher,” for instance, is something DC defines as “an entity responsible for making the resource available.” For my specific purpose “publisher” will be the entity responsible for digitizing the resource – in most cases, myself.
A completed metadata set for my own project will look like this:
The consistency is useful for people that may stumble upon my website and wish to use or revisit the sources I have digitized. For myself, this type of organization is also extremely helpful. Entering the metadata now will allow me to keep my archival material organized if I choose to switch platforms or use these sources elsewhere. This is an excellent alternative to just jotting down the citations in my dissertation notebooks.
I have been working to create a basic organizational framework for my repository (http://chi.anthropology.msu.edu/2011/02/28/a-digital-repository-for-mississippian-archaeologists/), and the process is actually coming along much better than I expected it would. A couple of weeks ago, I met with Dr. Goldstein to discuss my plans and to briefly browse through the materials she has available for the Aztalan site. To maximize inter-site comparability, we decided that it would be best to decide on a basic set of material types that I would expect to encounter as the project progresses. My initial decisions are, of course, based largely on what I have available for Aztalan, but these types of materials will likely be available for other sites as they are added to the repository. The preliminary categories are basic site information, maps, images, full text documents, bibliographies, and raw data. Of course, I plan to design the repository in a way that unique or unexpected material types can be easily ingested as they are encountered, but I think that a lot of different items can be reasonably categorized within this basic framework.
Basic site information will include things like site number, dates, location, etc. Maps are a fundamental component of any kind of archaeological work, and I expect that I will have access to several for each site. There are maps of entire sites, topographical maps, geological/environmental-type maps, regional maps, maps of specific features or excavation units, etc. All of these are useful and important for researchers to be able to access. It would be ideal if I could find basic maps for each site that were drawn/created to a similar scale for optimal inter-site comparability, but this may not be possible. The image category will predominately be made up of photographs of everything from artifacts to excavation units to general shots of the landscape. Historical photographs, portraits, and artistic renderings may also become available. Full text documents will include journal articles, grey literature, site reports, etc. Field notes might also be included here, but I actually have not thought about that particular material type until right now. A list of bibliographic references will also be included so that researchers can at least be aware of documents for which I do not have access to a full text version.
Raw data is a somewhat problematic category, and I am anxious to see how this one is going to work out. By ‘raw data’, I am generally referring to unanalyzed qualitative and quantitative observations, which researchers have collected as part of the process of completing a project. Of course, people usually end up analyzing, interpreting, and eventually writing up their results for dissemination, but the raw data is still there, and often times there is a lot more that can be done with it that any individual researcher has the time or interest to accomplish. It would be great if some people were willing to share some version of their raw data with me so that other archaeologists can use it. But, on the other hand, researchers work hard to collect data for their specific projects, and often times this information is of a highly sensitive nature. People are understandably nervous about sharing it. I decided it would be best to design my repository so that I am prepared to ingest such data as its own major category, when and if it becomes available. In any case, I hope to at least gather information on collection locations and contact information for data holders and curators (to facilitate gaining access to collections for new data collection).
The next step is to prepare the repository so I can move on to actual ingestion of information. I met with Catherine Foley (of MSU MATRIX) and she has been a great help as far as teaching me about the KORA platform in general, as well as giving me more specific pointers on the best way to organize my repository. There are some important organizational considerations that are particular to the way that KORA is set up (things like schemes, controls, collections, etc) but I will save those details for another blog post. For now, I’ll just say that I am working on deciding which types of metadata are necessary for each category of materials. These decisions are aided by looking at the standards used in the digital archive world (Dublin Core, for example) as well as by looking at other KORA projects. When I finalize my metadata decisions, I will be able to start actual repository creation and ingestion of materials. I am getting increasingly excited about this process, and I hope to have a really good update for you in the near future.